This is the second instalment of The Crumpled Letter for March Madness with Freewrite House. You can read the first instalment by clicking the link below.
By ten thirty she was ready to leave her house. She stood in her hallway feeling the anxiety rising. Looking one last time in her hallway mirror, she flattened down a loose tendril of her hair. “Okay, Doris. You’ve got this!” she said to her reflection. “Time for the fun to begin.” And she forced her face into a smile. It didn’t reach her eyes but then she really didn’t feel like smiling, so this was as good as she was going to get. Picking up her keys from the hall table she made her way to her front door and for the first time in many weeks she left her house.
At exactly one thirty four she stepped out of her solicitors in Russell Square. The sun was bright outside and standing on the steps of the Georgian building, Doris looked at the ring on her left hand. She moved it around on her finger and did her best to ease it off. “Damn!” she said aloud, as she realised it wasn’t going to shift. Well, I guess some things aren’t so easy to erase, she thought. “Now what?” she sighed. She looked at the squared garden across the road, and decided as she wasn’t in any rush she might as well go and enjoy the sunshine for a little bit. After all, she was now beholden to no one and could do exactly as she pleased.
She sat on one of the benches around the water fountain and held her bag on her lap. For a while she watched the other park users. Some of them were obviously local workers taking their lunch. There was a couple of mothers sitting on a bench opposite, chatting animatedly as their babies slept in their prams, and a small boy, who she believed was with one of the mums, was riding his tricycle around the fountain. She smiled as he passed her and waved her hand. One of the mums saw and smiled over at her.
She couldn’t help thinking of similar times she’d spent in parks watching her own children. They were all grown up now and had lives of their own. They had been good to her this last year considering how much all their lives had been turned upside down. She knew that she couldn’t keep depending on them though, especially her daughter who was in the last stages of pregnancy and had two boisterous boys to keep her busy. No, it was time for her to take back control of her life. At least she knew now, without a shadow of a doubt, that her house was to remain her own. It was the least he could do, after all. That was how he’d put it. She sighed and got a tissue from her bag. It would be no good crying here. She blew into the tissue and managed to keep her tears at bay.
She looked at her watch. It was now two twenty and she’d been sitting here for almost an hour. The rest of the long day spread out in front of her like the Bayeux Tapestry as yet to be embroidered. Her whole life, once so clearly defined, was now unravelled and without any discernible pattern fixed to it. She felt the familiar anxiety bubble up again as her thoughts swirled around her possible future.
What was one to do with themselves, when life as they’d known it had ended? This thought had plagued her over the months. It was what she’d battled through the last few weeks while she’d been holed up in her terraced home back in Camden. Her thoughts went again to his words, “It’s the least I can do.” Damn right! It wasn’t as if he’d spent years tending the house. She’d been the one responsible for its maintenance and cleaning. He was useless at all things DIY. It wasn’t even like he’d been solely responsible for paying the mortgage over the years. She’d not only raised their kids and maintained the home, she’d worked throughout their marriage only taking a few years off when the kids were small. She exhaled as she realised how her anxiety had quickly turned to anger.
Oh well, she thought, there’s no point sitting here any longer. She stood and smiled at the mothers across from her, waving at the little boy on his tricycle again. With that she made her way out of the squared garden and decided she’d just wander for a while and see where her feet took her. She was feeling a little hungry so maybe she’d find a café to eat in and spend another hour whiling the time away.
After weeks in her home, she was actually enjoying being outside, and as the sun was still shining she might as well enjoy it for a little longer. She hadn’t been in Bloomsbury for some time but the familiar streets soon led her back to an old haunt of hers. She smiled as she reached 48 Doughty Street and looked at the blue plaque on the brick wall of the house. She had always enjoyed spending time in this small museum and imagining Charles Dickens at his desk penning his novels.
There was a little café to the back of the building, which she had visited before, that had a charming courtyard garden where she would be able to sit. As she was only visiting the café she needn’t pay the entrance fee but she picked up a few leaflets from the front desk to peruse while she ate. She quickly chose a light lunch that included a savoury pastry and salad, and noticing there were pitchers of water declined the question of what drink she’d like.
She made her way outside and found a table in the corner where she would be able to look out on the other people sitting in the café. There was a young gentleman dressed casually on one table, who had his nose inside a copy of The PickWick Papers, Dickens’ first novel. She smiled remembering how she had been lost in the club of the Pickwickians, while studying Dickens back in her early twenties.
She looked at the leaflets she had picked up on her way in, noticing that there was one about becoming a volunteer for the museum. This was something she would not have considered in a million years before recent events. She would never have believed she had the time, but now? She read through the different types of volunteers that were required for the museum and knew she met the requirements for each of them easily. Still, she wasn’t really sure she had the confidence to hold talks as an Education volunteer and the idea of being a Room Steward didn’t really appeal, but general garden duties, that might just be the thing to get her out of the house and meeting people again.
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